Chapter 1: Sadie
The subway is nearly empty. It’s that in-between time of day when commuters have already commuted and just a handful of people are riding the train. At one end of the train car, a young woman stands holding onto a rail with one hand and clutching the strap of her shouldered backpack with the other. She’s dressed in conservative work clothes, and her pale yellow suit looks like a hand-me-down; a bit large for her slight frame. Sadie has always worn her strawberry blond hair long, and today, because she’d been at work, it’s pulled back into a loose ponytail to keep it off her face. She thinks about slipping the elastic tie from her hair and sliding it onto her wrist, so that her hair will hide her face. But the effort of doing that is too much right now. Instead, she just faces away from the rest of the subway car, eyes downcast.
At the previous stop another girl about her age boarded the train, cell phone clutched to her ear. Now that girl stands barely a foot from her, though the car is nearly empty, holding onto the bar near the door with her free hand. It’s obvious she doesn’t care who hears her phone conversation as she laughs loudly at something the person on the line has said, then quips back a snarky comment about someone, possibly a coworker. Even the woman’s clothes are loud. She’s wearing a hot pink blazer over a black and white stripped dress. Though Sadie’s back is to her now, she couldn’t help but catch sight of what the girl looked like when she’d boarded the train. The jacket caught her eye first, and then she’d noticed the shock of tight black curls that exploded from the girl’s head.
Sadie keeps her eyes down and tries to drown out the other girl by going over in her head what had happened that morning. She’d been fired. There she’d said it. And she was going to have to say it again when she got home. Though her dad wouldn’t be there when she arrived, he’d still be at his own job; one he’d had for more than thirty years, she would have to tell him. It isn’t just the fact that she was fired; it’s how they’d done it. She was so humiliated. The more she thought about it, the harder it was to hold back the tears. Soon, her shoulders are slightly shaking and she has to let go of the rail to swipe a hand under her eyes to stop the tears from dripping.
Behind her, the other girl carries on her phone conversation at full volume. “Oh yeah? No. Uh un. (pause) Why don’t you just tell him to fuck off? (pause) I wouldn’t put up with that shit. (pause) So what? (pause) I know, I know you can’t really say that but really; screw him.”
The more Sadie hears the conversation, the angrier she gets. It’s not the other girl’s language; though it’s punctuated heavily with expletives, they’re nothing Sadie hasn’t heard before or even said before. It’s the fact that the woman is so caught up in gossip, while Sadie stands inches away, doing all she can to hold herself together. Though she tries to ignore it, she finds she can’t. And now the tears come fast and she lets go of the rail to dig through her backpack for a tissue; all the while keeping her back to the other girl.
There’s a longer pause while the person on the other end of the call talks. This is punctuated only briefly by an “Uh huh.” “Yeah” or “I hear that.” Sadie wonders if during one of these pauses, maybe the girl will look up, notice her; see that she’s been fighting back tears. Maybe she’ll end her call, reach out to Sadie and ask, “Hey, are you okay?” Suddenly, Sadie realizes that’s exactly what she wants this loud, brash, confident-seeming girl to do. She wants her to see her. To reach out and touch her shoulder. To listen to her.
The subway pulls to a stop at the next station and before Sadie realizes what’s happening, the other girl has hopped off. She’s off the phone now, and stands on the platform checking for something in her big, oversized bag. Without thinking, Sadie looks through the dirty train window directly at the girl and calls out, “Bitch!” Just as the train is jittering away, the other girl looks up; she looks right at Sadie with a startled, shocked expression. The train rumbles on and red-faced with shock herself, Sadie stares at the ground, willing the floor of the subway car to open up and swallow her. But though the train is more crowded now, no one seems to notice her or have heard her shout. They were too busy getting on and off and finding space to hold onto, now that it’s getting busier.
Sadie’s still embarrassed 20 minutes later when the train slows at her stop, and she jumps off. She walks home quickly, changes clothes, and waits for her dad to get home so she can tell him about her day. She won’t tell him about the girl on the subway; that’s too embarrassing. She’ll tell him about being fired. And she’ll tell him the humiliating way it happened. He’ll know what to say. He’ll have sound advice so that next time, she’ll have learned from this and be ready to tackle the situation better.
Chapter 2: Chelsea
Thank God she caught the train when she did. If she’s late again to pick up the samples from the printer her boss will freak. And Chelsea really needs this job. She’s lasted six months this time; the longest she’s ever been able to keep a job. And if she looses this one, she knows her parents will make good on the threat and tell her to find somewhere else to live. She’s not thrilled to be living at home right now, but when you’re 19, have no credit, and no money to go to college, you do what you have to. She’s grateful her parents have agreed to let her stay through this year, even though she doesn’t always say it or show it. If she keeps this job, she can save and finally move in with her friend Tess. They’ve been keeping their eye out for cheap apartments in the city but it’s so hard.
She and Tess met at the ad agency where they’d both been hired as junior trainees. Though neither have degrees, they both have experience that helped them get in. They like the work but hate their boss. In fact, it’s him that Tess’s complaining about on the phone in her ear as Chelsea hops on the train and finds a spot to lean near a door. “Oh yeah? No. Uh un. (pause) Why don’t you just tell him to fuck off? (pause) I wouldn’t put up with that shit. (pause) So what? (pause) I know, I know you can’t really say that but really; screw him.”
Chelsea knows she’d never tell her boss the things she’s telling Tess to say. Chelsea’s all talk. That’s kind of the problem. She talked back to her parents for years. They only get along with her now because they mostly avoid each other. And she lost three jobs last year because she couldn’t keep her mouth shut. One of her bosses had told her if she spent half as much time thinking about others and the bigger picture as she did talking about herself and her needs, she’d have a chance at success. She had talent; she knew she did. She could write and she had a keen eye for editing. She’s glad now she’d worked on her high school newspaper. She’d really felt in her element. And she’s been able to talk her way into more than one job by showing them some of her writing samples.
Tess’s numbing her ear with complaints about Ted, the boss from hell. Well, the boss from hell in Tess’s view. Despite the fact he’s come down hard on her when she’s screwed up, he’s not as bad as other bosses Chelsea’s had. “Uh huh.” (long pause) “Yeah” (pause) “I hear that. Listen Tess if you don’t like it, look for something else.” She knows that sounds callous but she’s kind of tired of listening to Tess whine on. Her phone battery’s about dead so as the train doors slide open at her stop, she hops off, tells Tess she’s got to go then tosses her phone in her bag and digs around for the scrap of paper on which she’s written the address of the print shop. She’d been there before but she can’t remember the cross street.
Just as her fingers find the scrap of paper and she clutches it, she looks up and through the dirty train window she sees a girl about her age, shouting what she can clearly tell even from out here is the word “Bitch”. And oddly, the girl seems to be directing it right at Chelsea. Their eyes lock for a moment, then the train pulls away and Chelsea stands there, paper clutched in her hand, feeling stunned.
Chapter 3: Chelsea
“Nice job on the copy for the announcements, Chelsea. You really captured the message the client wanted.” “Thanks Ted.” says Chelsea. She wants to say more. She wants to ask him what specifically he liked. But she’s afraid if she says more she’ll say something ridiculous that she’ll regret so she quickly turns and leaves his office before she can make a fool of herself.
It’s been three days since “The Subway Girl Incident”, as Chelsea thinks of it. She was rattle more than she wants to admit, by having a stranger shout at her that way. And she hadn’t told a soul about it. That first night, after leaving work and going straight home (something she rarely did since she usually hoped to avoid seeing her parents as long as possible), she’d had dinner with her folks. Her parents were just as surprised as she was. Though oddly, they seemed pleased. “We were just about to sit down to dinner.” said her mom, Deb as Chelsea let herself in the back door, which opened into the small kitchen. “Do you have time to join us?” Her dad looked uncertain. The three of them sat in the kitchen, eating the crock pot stew her mom had put on that morning, so that it could cook all day while she’d gone to her job as a care giver for the elderly. Her dad worked as a janitor, pardon, a custodial engineer, as he liked to say, at the local high school. The same high school Chelsea had graduated from two years earlier. Maybe that was part of the problem. Having your friends see your dad schlep a mop and bucket into the boy’s bathroom in between classes didn’t exactly help when you were trying to fit in, blend in, at school.
Throughout the meal Chelsea was uncharacteristically quiet. She listened to her parents as they talked together about their day. “I don’t know if I’ll be going to Lillian’s much longer.” said her Mom. “No?” Dad replied. “She took another fall and she’s back in the hospital. I’ve been told it’s not looking good” “Sorry to hear that. I know you really liked working for Lil.” With a sigh her mother had replied, “That’s how it goes in this business. I’m hopeful she’ll recover. She has a wonderful family and I know how hard it’s going to be on them.” Chelsea’s dad, Ray, startled her out of her reverie by turning to her to ask, “Did I tell you principal McMillian is retiring?” Principal McMillian. Wow. Chelsea can’t believe it. She’d hoped to never hear that name again. If he’d had his way she never would have graduated on time. Just because she’d missed a few classes and gotten in trouble for a shouting match in the hallway with Teresa Barnes. During lunch. When everyone was there. Chelsea knows she should have kept her mouth shut. Once again, it had gotten her in trouble. It was only thanks to Mr. Mills, the teacher who headed up the school newspaper that she’d been able to graduate. He’d gone to bat for her, telling Principal McMillian what a disciplined writer she was; so good with words on a page, even if her word choice for Teresa Barnes in the hallway left a lot to be desired.
“Really? There’ll be a lot of happy Tornados when Old Man McMillian walks out the door.” The Tornados were the high school mascot. Kinda stupid, Chelsea thought. Especially for a school that was nowhere near the part of the country that had tornadoes. And if they did have them, that would make it even worse. Who thought up these school mascot names anyway? “Now, Chelsea.” said her dad. Here we go again, thought Chelsea. I’ve said the wrong thing. Crap. I can’t even talk to my parents without saying something stupid. Her dad expected her to quip back with some smart-aleck remark. Instead, Chelsea shut her mouth and looked down at her plate. “You feeling okay sweetie?” her mom asked. Scooping up her plate and silverware, Chelsea put them in the dishwasher and headed for her room saying, “I’m fine. Just tired. Long day. Thanks for dinner.”
After Chelsea left the kitchen her parents looked at each other, slightly stunned. Since when did Chelsea say “Thank you”? Since when did she put her dishes in the dishwasher? And when had she last joined them for a meal? But they’d both had their own long days, so they finished eating, cleared the dishes, and moved into the family room to watch TV together.
In her room, with the door closed, Chelsea sits on her bed. She plops back onto the fluffed up pillows and stares at the ceiling. What’s wrong with me? Who cares what some dumb girl on the subway shouts? She probably wasn’t even talking to me. Except Chelsea knows that’s not true. The girl in the pale yellow suit with her hair pulled back, and tears streaming down her face was looking straight at her when she’d yelled, “Bitch!”
She’s got to snap out of this. Chelsea sits up, grabs her phone from the bedside table and taps the Facebook icon. It’s the usual string of cat videos, snarky comments, and political crap. No thanks. She checks snapchat. More inane shit. Chelsea tosses her phone under her pillow and picks up her laptop from the desk. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, she opens the laptop lid and after typing in her password, she opens up the file she’d been working on last week. It’s a story. Well, it’s the kernel of an idea for a story. If someone asked her about it, she’d never admit she was working on a creative idea. She’s too embarrassed for that. But as she skims the paragraph she’d written last time, it’s like her fingers have a life of their own. They fly across the keyboard writing sentences and dialogue; creating scenes and characters that flow like water from Chelsea’s imagination and splash onto the digital page. At last her shoulders relax. She’s breathing normally again. She’s in her element.
Chapter 4: Chelsea
“I’m sorry Ted.” Damn it. Just when things seemed like they were going well, Chelsea screwed up again. “Chelsea, we’ve talked about this. Your writing is excellent but you can’t say things to the customer like, ‘No shit Sherlock.’’ Her shoulders slump as she stands in front of Ted’s desk, taking the verbal beating. But wait. Had Ted just said her writing was excellent? He had. But Chelsea knows that’s not enough. She really needs to control her tongue and stop being such a…such a “Bitch!” Chelsea’s back on the subway platform, seeing the girl in the pale yellow suit, tears streaming. “…so I’ve set up a meeting for next Tuesday and we’ll see how it goes.” Shit. What had Ted said while Chelsea’s mind was wandering? “A meeting for Tuesday. Right. No problem.” “Tess will set up the meeting. Just make sure you’re prepared, and for God’s sake, keep your temper and show them you can be professional. We have a lot riding on this contract.”
Clutching the folder she’d carried into Ted’s office, Chelsea stops by Tess’s cube. “There you are!” Tess’s eyes light up. She takes the folder from Chelsea and sets it on her desk. Then she grabs her bag as she tugs Chelsea’s elbow and directs her to the elevator. “I’m dying for a latte.” As they ride down in the elevator, Chelsea is quiet while Tess fills the small space with chatter. “Oh my gawd, what did he say to you?! I mean, he didn’t fire you did he? That would totally suck. I mean, it’s not such a big deal what you said. He can be such a prick. Forget him. So. Did he fire you?” Chelsea looks up, “No. No. Actually, he complimented my writing. And I’ve got another chance. He said you’re setting up a meeting for Tuesday. You’ve got to give me all the details. I can’t blow this.” “Yeah, sure. Once I hear I’ll let you know.”
The girls get their coffee at the café in the lobby, taking a few minutes to linger, watching for cute guys that may come into the building and checking out which bank of elevators they take; trying to guess which Fortune 500 company in the building they work for. Chelsea loves working in the city. It’s been her dream ever since she was a kid and her parents first took her on a Saturday walking tour downtown. She must have been about 10, and she remembers standing on the sidewalk looking up at one of the tall buildings and thinking they were like hives humming with activity. She wanted to be part of it, even if she didn’t know yet what “it” was. And now she is. And she doesn’t want to lose what she has.
When they get back upstairs, Chelsea takes the file from Tess’s desk and goes back to her cube to start researching the client. She pulls up all the files from their previous work with the firm and looks to see who’d handled the copy. She makes a note, cringing as she writes down Ford Patterson’s name in her notes. Ford. Shortly after Chelsea had started here Ford had come on to her. That would have been fine if he weren’t, oh, something like more than twice her age. She’d quickly learned Ford was a notorious letch and fended him off deftly. Now she’d have to face him. Now she was going to ask him for help prepping for this meeting.
Checking to see that he’s in the building and online, Chelsea IM’s Ford and asks if he has a few minutes to meet. “For you? I’m always available.” When Chelsea reads the IM text she can practically hear the creepy tone she knows he intended. Suppressing a shiver of disgust, she picks up her notes and heads to Ford’s office at the end of the hall. Ten minutes, tops, she tells herself. That’s all the time she’ll stay in his office. Just a minute or two of pleasantries (if that’s what you can call it with Ford), then she’ll ask him about the work he did for her client.
“Chelseeeeee” Ford rises from his chair to greet her at the door and steer her over to the small grouping of chairs around a tiny conference table. Chelsea suppresses the urge to gag as he grasps her upper arms from behind and massages them while directing her to a seat. She extracts herself from his grip as she sits down. “Thanks for meeting with me on short notice Ford. I don’t know if you heard but I’m working on the Moxley account and I saw you’d done some work for them. I wondered if you might tell me about that.” Good. She’d kept it professional and quickly steered the conversation where she wanted it. Unfortunately, Ford isn’t so easily deterred. “Chelsea Chelsea Chelsea. We can get to all that. But first, let’s talk about you.” Damn. It was clear there was no way she was going to get out of here in less than ten minutes.
What feels like hours later, but is probably more like 15 minutes, she’s fended off every possible angle Ford’s thrown at her to delve into her personal life. She’s done her best to push the conversation back towards the client, but the effort is exhausting. Finally, Ford gets around to talking about Moxley. “You know their CEO is getting ready to retire, right? They’ve yet to name his successor, but my money’s on Jill Janney. She’s smart; knows when to talk and when to shut up.” Wow, thinks Chelsea, I could learn something from her. Ford goes on, “She plays her cards close but don’t let her fool you; those wheels are always turning.” They talk for about another 30 minutes, and this time Ford, who’s warmed up to his topic is actually giving her good information. She can see now why, despite the creep factor, he’s been promoted to senior strategist. He knows how to read the clients and how to give them not only what they want, but what he wants them to have, making them think it’s what they want.
Despite how helpful Ford had been, Chelsea stills finds herself stepping into the ladies room on the way back to her desk so she can wash her hands and apply sanitizing hand gel. Ugh. She can’t believe she lasted that long in Ford’s office. Once back at her desk, Chelsea starts typing up her notes from the meeting with Ford. She’s interrupted by an IM from Tess, asking what she wants to do for lunch. It’s only 10:15 a.m. Chelsea tries to ignore it and keep working, but Tess keeps pinging her, asking inane questions. Chelsea knows she should reply. Tess’s just doing what she does every day. What Chelsea herself used to do every day; wasting time until the next break. But today is different. Spurred on by that one hopeful comment from Ted, “You’re writing is excellent” Chelsea realizes she really wants this job to work. Not just so she can move out and into her own place, though that’s part of it. She feels like she may have found a place she can fit in. Do something of value. Oh, she’s not an idealist. She knows they’re an ad agency and not a non-profit serving meals to the homeless. But what Chelsea contributes to the team counts. And she wants to get it right.
Chapter 5: Chelsea
It’s Friday. It’s just after 5 p.m. Finally. Tess switches off her monitor, grabs her purse from the bottom drawer of her desk and heads for Chelsea’s cube. “Hey Chels, I thought we’d go to The Mud Room for at least one drink before The Pig and Pearl. I heard that Mitch from Finance was…” She stops mid-sentence when she realizes Chelsea isn’t paying any attention to her, even though she’s standing right in the entry to Chelsea’s cube. She hasn’t even stopped typing. “Chelseeeee.” She draws it out, fairly whining until Chelsea’s forced to turn around. “Oh, hey. Sorry Tess but I’ve got to get this done. I’ll try to meet you at The Pig and Pearl later, okay?” Chelsea’s turned around and typing again without even waiting for Tess to respond. But it’s Friday and there’s very little that could dampen Tess’s party mood. “Okay, if you’re sure. I’ll see you in an about an hour, okay?” “Sure, fine. See you then.” Chelsea says, looking at her monitor, fingers flying over the keyboard.
If she can just hammer out this communication plan, she knows she can get it to Ted before she leaves, then he can have the weekend to tear it apart, which leaves her Monday to put it back together again before the client meeting on Tuesday. So much is riding on this meeting. It’s her chance to show Ted she can be professional. She can keep her mouth shut. Or rather, she can communicate just as effectively with people in person as she can through writing. Well, Chelsea hopes she can. She knows it’s a stretch for her but she’s really trying.
As she rereads the plan, she can’t help making more revisions. As she redrafts the conclusion, her cell phone buzzes. Its Tess texting her. “where r u?” Chelsea checks the time and realizes it’s after 7:30. Shit. She’d told Tess she’d meet her in about an hour. Or that’s what she thinks she told her. She hadn’t really been paying attention. “sorry” she texts back. “30 min” “k meet at Bullwinkles”, Tess replies. “k” Chelsea types then sets the phone down. Leaning back in her chair, she stretches, and realizes she’s really been wound up tight. She could really use a night out. She’d been staying late every night working on this communication plan. And shit, Ted’s just going to mark it up for revision anyway. She finishes the edit she was making, saves the file again, then types a quick email to Ted and attaches the draft. As soon as she hits “Send” she has a moment of remorse. Maybe she should have added another data point to support her reason for the additional Facebook marketing campaign she was suggesting. No. It’s fine. It’s good. It’s done.
Chelsea pushes open the door of Bullwinkles and sees Tess at a table with some of their other coworkers from Levi & Watson’s. Mitch from Finance, who she knows Tess has been crushing on is sitting next to her and they’ve both clearly had more than a couple of drinks as they’re practically pawing each other at the table. Chelsea thinks about turning around and leaving. Let Tess have her fun. But then Fiona, one of the other strategists sees Chelsea and waves her over. Fiona’s worked at L&W for a couple of years. And though they aren’t friends, Chelsea knows Fiona isn’t like some of the others. I guess it helps when you’re confident in your own work, and you’ve got some experience under your belt, thinks Chelsea. Fiona just seems to be genuinely nice to everyone.
Chelsea waves to Fiona then points to the bar, to let her know she’s going to grab a drink on the way to the table. Fiona smiles and goes back to talking to the girl next to her. As Chelsea stands at the bar waiting for the bartender to make his way down from the other end, she sees a girl standing at the end of the bar with a strawberry blonde ponytail, wearing a pale yellow suit. The girl is facing away from Chelsea, talking to someone facing her. Chelsea freezes. Could it be? Is “Subway Girl” here? A cold chill goes up Chelsea’s spine. She feels immobilized. “What can I get you?” The bartender’s friendly baritone voice brings her back to the present and she turns to face him. He’s got a kind face, wavy black hair and a neatly trimmed black beard and mustache. He’s leaning one arm, shirt sleeve rolled up, on the bar, and Chelsea can see he’s got awesome biceps. She nearly forgets “Subway Girl”, but then she glances back and sees her, just as the girl is turning around. It’s not her. Chelsea could never forget that face. Even without tears streaming down her cheeks, mouth twisted in anger, Chelsea would recognize that face anywhere, and this isn’t the same girl.
“I’ll have a Corona, please.” “You got it.” And with that the bartender turns to get her beer. After he sets the bottle in front of her and Chelsea pays, she picks up the bottle and takes a long pull. “Rough day?” The bartender asks. Chelsea turns to him and pauses. This is one of those moments she’d normally say something like, “Rough? Yeah, it was real shitty.” But she looks right into his kind face, pauses, and says, “Rough day. Rough week. Rough year.” He smiles and reaches out his hand. “I’m Jake.” Shaking his hand, a nice firm grip but not too much, she says, “Hi Jake. I’m Chelsea. Nice to meet you.” “Looks like your friends are waving you over.” He says as he sees both Fiona and Tess waving. “Thanks.” Jake smiles and says, “Remember, no matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.” “Ha! Thanks. I’ll try to remember that. Who said that? Is that wisdom from your dad?” “No, that was Randy Pausch. That guy who wrote The Last Lecture?” “Oh yeah? Well, thanks.” The Last Lecture? The bartender at Bullwinkles has read The Last Lecture? Chelsea shakes her head, smiles, and heads over to the table.
Chapter 6: Chelsea
“Brilliant. No, seriously. You did a great job today.” Chelsea sits in front of Ted’s desk, fairly basking in the glow of his praise. It’s Tuesday afternoon and the client meeting had gone well. Really well. Not only had Ted hardly made any changes to her draft, but she carried off the oral presentation without a single damn, hell, or no shit, Sherlock. All in all, it had been a success. “Thanks Ted. It really helped getting a chance to practice.” “Practice?” “Yeah, I asked a couple of people to sit in over lunch yesterday while I tried out what I was going to say. And they asked some tough questions so I could practice how I might answer.” “That’s great, Chelsea. Clearly your planning paid off. If you can free up your schedule later this week, I have a new project I’d like to get your help with.” “That’d be great, thanks Ted.”
Chelsea goes back to her desk, smiling to herself. What she hadn’t told Ted was that the whole time she rehearsed she pictured “Subway Girl” looking in the glass window of the fishbowl conference room. The shaking shoulders and angry face made Chelsea take her time, slow down, think about what she wanted to say before she said it. Kind of interesting, now that Chelsea thinks about it. While she still feels embarrassed when she thinks about “The Subway Girl Incident”, she recognizes a new feeling along with it; gratitude. She still doesn’t understand why the girl had shouted at her, but she could catch the drift. Clearly, Chelsea had done something thoughtless. She’d been so focused on her phone, and Tess, and keeping her job, she hadn’t noticed whatever it was the girl was trying to communicate. And that one moment, when their eyes met and Chelsea knew all that anger was directed at her, she knew the girl had seen something in her she hadn’t. But now, now she could see it. While she still doesn’t know what she’d done to the girl, she knows what she’d done to sabotage her own work, and how she sometimes treats Tess, and her own parents. She doesn’t want to be that girl any more. She doesn’t want to be a “bitch”, as “Subway Girl” had called her.
Chapter 7: Chelsea
It’s not even 8 PM on a Friday and Bullwinkles is packed. Chelsea shoulders her way through the crowd to the bar, and takes up the empty seat she knew Jake would be holding for her. She smiles as she removes the handmade “reserved” sign from the chair and places it on the bar. And there he is, down the other end of the bar chatting to customers, making everyone feel welcome, as he always does. Chelsea catches his eye and Jake’s grin gets even broader, if that’s possible. He quickly finishes his conversation, grabs a Corona and pops the top, setting it gently on the bar in front of Chelsea. “Hello sweetheart. Rough day?” “No. Great day. Great week. Great year.” Chelsea smiles and Jake kisses her unabashedly, his mustache and beard tickling her face, as it always does. “You now it’s six weeks today since you first walked in here during my shift?” Jake asks her. “Six weeks? Wow. Feels more like six years.” “Woah there Chels, remember…” “I know, no matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.” They both smile and lean in for another kiss, just as a shout of “Hey, can I get three Bud Lights and a Heineken?” comes from down the bar.
Jake heads off to serve a new group that just arrived, and Chelsea picks up her beer, takes a drink, and then swivels in the stool to face the room. As she’s turning back around, someone across the bar catches her eye. It’s a girl with strawberry blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She’s wearing black tailored slacks and a black blazer over a bright blue T-shirt. She’s smiling and laughing with friends, but when she sees Chelsea she goes still. Her smile turns to a round O of wonder. In an instant Chelsea gets it. The “Subway Girl” recognizes her too. And she’s embarrassed. Chelsea smiles, raises her beer bottle in a toast to the girl. Tentatively, “Subway Girl” raises her own drink and returns the smile. Chelsea’s a little surprised to find that all her shame over that moment nearly two months ago on the subway platform has faded. She really ought to buy the girl a drink. And find out if she has a name other than “Subway Girl”. Seeing Jake will be tied up for a while, she picks up her beer and crosses the room to thank the girl who changed her life.